Jason Rittereiser speaking at NPI's 2018 Spring Fundraising Gala
8th Congressional District candidate Jason Rittereiser speaks at NPI's 2018 Spring Fundraising Gala in Renton (Photo: Rennie Sawade/NPI)

Repub­li­cans have dom­i­nat­ed Washington’s 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict since its cre­ation in the 1980s. As most read­ers of the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate are like­ly aware, entrenched incum­bent Dave Reichert is retir­ing this year after spend­ing over a decade as the district’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Democ­rats are eager to seize this oppor­tu­ni­ty to change the district’s lead­er­ship in Congress.

One of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tenders fight­ing for a spot on the Novem­ber bal­lot is for­mer pros­e­cu­tor and labor lawyer Jason Rit­tereis­er. Rit­tereis­er is com­pet­ing against two oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates (Shan­non Had­er and Kim Schri­er), to see who will advance to the autumn bal­lot with Repub­li­can Dino Rossi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_3dEnmAJiQ

Rit­tereis­er start­ed his career as a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tor for King Coun­ty in the Spe­cial Assault Unit and the Vio­lent Crime Unit. He says this expe­ri­ence gave him the abil­i­ty to see a part of soci­ety that many peo­ple ignore.

“It allows you to inter­act with folks who are dis­ad­van­taged, who are often cast to the side of soci­ety, and under­stand­ing some of the chal­lenges those folks face is impor­tant,” he said in an inter­view with NPI.

When he tran­si­tioned into pri­vate prac­tice, Rit­tereis­er want­ed to work for a firm that reflect­ed his val­ues and stood up against pow­er­ful inter­ests. He became a labor and employ­ment lawyer, rep­re­sent­ing thou­sands of Wash­ing­ton work­ers in the fight against wage theft, wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion, and unequal pay.

For his work, Jason received the Young Lawyer of the Year award from the King Coun­ty Bar Asso­ci­a­tion in 2017.

He brought the first cas­es to pro­tect nurs­ing moth­ers and domes­tic vio­lence vic­tims in the work­place in the State of Washington.

He links the proud­est moments of his career with the cas­es that allowed him to bring a voice to peo­ple who oth­er­wise would not have had one.

He hopes to con­tin­ue this advo­ca­cy if elect­ed into Congress.

“These are bat­tles that I’ve been on the front lines for and fun­da­men­tal­ly under­stand how laws effect peo­ple in their every­day lives,” Rit­tereis­er observed.

“I think I can have an influ­ence in how Con­gress crafts law to pro­tect peo­ple rather than pow­er­ful inter­ests and corporations.”

Rit­tereis­er says what sets him apart from oth­er can­di­dates in the race is his con­nec­tion to the east­ern part of the dis­trict, which includes cities like Wenatchee. It’s an area that has his­tor­i­cal­ly vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly Republican.

As Rit­tereis­er puts it: “I’m the only can­di­date ever [and the only] Demo­c­rat ever, to run in this dis­trict who is born and raised in East­ern Wash­ing­ton. I grew up in the dis­trict but on the oth­er side of the moun­tains, and if we’re going to win this dis­trict we’re going to have to con­nect with vot­ers everywhere.”

A defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of the 8th Dis­trict is that it spans the Cas­cades, encom­pass­ing both urban and rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, Moun­tains. Rit­tereis­er hopes to unite both sides of the range and reach peo­ple in all cor­ners of the district.

“I think that peo­ple have the same con­cerns on both sides of the moun­tains”, Rit­tereis­er said, adding that even if dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and con­stituen­cies might approach issues from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, issues like child­care, edu­ca­tion, health­care, trans­porta­tion, and tar­iffs are major con­cerns for peo­ple every­where in the dis­trict — regard­less of par­ty affiliation.

If elect­ed, Rit­tereis­er’s first pri­or­i­ty would be to pass a major infra­struc­ture invest­ment bill. In a polar­ized Con­gress, he notes infra­struc­ture as an issue that Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans have the abil­i­ty to work togeth­er on.

He specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned the need to update Washington’s ener­gy grid to make full use of the renew­able ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy in the 8th District.

He also men­tioned the need for infra­struc­ture invest­ments to help the 700,000 homes in the state that don’t have access to broad­band technology.

Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy agen­da is anoth­er major con­cern for Jason. He expressed con­cern that the president’s two hun­dred and thir­ty two tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum, and China’s sub­se­quent retal­ia­to­ry tar­iffs, will have sig­nif­i­cant impact on farm­ers and farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties in the 8th District.

Rit­tereis­er was clear-eyed when talk­ing about the dan­ger of Trump’s fool­ish pos­tur­ing on trade, not­ing that no one wins in a trade war. “Chi­na has retal­i­at­ed by list­ing sig­nif­i­cant agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts on the tar­iff list. That includes apples, and cher­ries, and soy­beans, all of which are grown in this district.”

He hopes to increase con­gres­sion­al over­sight and involve­ment in nego­ti­at­ing trade deals — some­thing that he says incum­bent Dave Reichert is fail­ing to do.

Rit­tereis­er has secured many endorse­ments from labor unions and labor coun­cils around Wash­ing­ton. Some of these include Wash­ing­ton State Coun­cil of Fire Fight­ers, Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil, Ren­ton Fire­fight­ers Local 864, Pile Dri­vers and Divers Local 196, Inter­na­tion­al Union of Oper­at­ing Engi­neers Local 286, and the Sheet Met­al Work­ers Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion Local 66.

Many of these unions and orga­ni­za­tions cite Jason’s knowl­edge of work­ers’ rights and expe­ri­ence stand­ing up to pow­er­ful inter­ests as the rea­son for their support.

“Jason’s expe­ri­ence hold­ing bil­lion-dol­lar cor­po­ra­tions account­able for mis­treat­ing their work­ers gives us con­fi­dence that he will be a leader on these issues in Con­gress, not just a good vote”, said Jeff John­son, the retir­ing Pres­i­dent of the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil, AFL-CIO.

(The WSLC has also endorsed Kim Schrier.)

Rit­tereis­er points to this elec­tion as one of the most con­se­quen­tial elec­tions in his life­time. “We can’t over­state the impor­tance of this race”, he said.

“There’s twen­ty-three seats we need to take back in order to con­trol the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and whether or not Democ­rats take back con­trol of the House will deter­mine where our coun­try is in fif­teen and twen­ty years.”

Only a few weeks remain before the dead­line arrives to return bal­lots in the August Top Two elec­tion. They’re due to be mailed next week.

This year, for the first time in Wash­ing­ton State his­to­ry, it won’t be nec­es­sary to put a stamp on the return enve­lope to return it through the U.S. Mail. Pre­paid postage on bal­lot return envelopes has had a pos­i­tive effect in small­er scale tests. Next month, it faces its first big test, with poten­tial impli­ca­tions for the mar­quee mul­ti-coun­ty con­test for the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the 8th.

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